I get e-mail — Cinematic Appraisals: “Mind Science” or Pseudoscience

polygraphI got a very hurt e-mail from someone yesterday.

A few years ago, before I was at Freethoughtblogs, I wrote an article about a service offered to film producers called “Cinematic Appraisals”.  I had recently optioned my screenplay and I was generally up-to-date with everything, but a friend sent me a link to their site telling me I would have a field day.  It still reads like fake science and a potential scam, especially at $50/page, but I now also know that they are so unprofessional that they didn’t even realize I was the second highest Google result until a client pointed it out to them.

Of course, now that I have been reminded of their existence, I have to write about them again.

A potential client mentioned your blog as a top result when searching our company name, Cinematic Appraisals.

We are a small company that performs emotional response testing for investors and have no idea how we ever drew your negative attention. The Home page of our website states that we do not work for writers or agents (we refer them to The Writer’s Store, which offers a smaller-scale emotional response section at no additional charge with their script coverage).

Would you please do us the courtesy of explaining how our services have affected you and how you have determined those services are fraudulent, or of kindly removing the damaging post? Again, we are a small business who puts a great deal of time and care into the work we perform.

The really charming part of the website is where it explains it’s “patented” science, which sounds like someone holds onto an e-meter or is attached to a lie detector while reading the screenplay and they measure the “results”.  While there is some science being done to measure reactions to movies, as far as I have been able to find, there are absolutely no conclusions and nothing that could be extrapolated to reading a screenplay.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE MIND SCIENCE METHOD

Cinematic Appraisals’ patent-pending Mind Science Method is based on neuroscientific research (citation needed) conducted (by whom) over the last 40 years (citation needed). The Mind Science Method measures neurobiological triggers and reactions (how), assigning a proven value (citation needed) for each level (of what).

It’s long been known (by whom) that moviegoers psychologically fall into a state of “suspended disbelief” (citation needed) when watching stories play out on film (which is not the same as reading a screenplay), which is just the beginning of what goes on in the psyche and the body during film watching (citation needed). Viewers’ physiological responses also fluctuate depending upon their level of involvement with the story and action (citation needed). While watching something highly stimulating, the human body releases a host of limbic chemical responses (citation needed, which responses). The dose of chemicals released is proportionate to the level of emotional stimuli (citation needed), creating lasting emotions (citation really needed).

In other words, when the protagonist runs, the connected viewer’s heart rate will increase (citation needed). When the protagonist holds his breath, so does the connected viewer (citation needed). This state has been compared (by whom) to the state of partial hypnosis (not even “full hypnosis”? a state not entirely recognized by science, citation needed) —a state normally only achieved when dreaming (hypnosis and dreaming are the same? citation needed).

The Mind Science Method gauges this degree of connection with the material (the screenplay, they have, of course, been talking about watching movies, not reading) using our unique patented neurobiological algorithms (patented apparently means “not gonna tell you anything”). This allows the producer to tell when the screenplay produces this hypnotic-like state—and when it does not (citation needed). This allows a producer to reverse-engineer the screenplay to create one audiences will love (evidence?), before going through the expense of production.

Proven in the lab (citation needed) and the real world (citation needed) to correlate (ah, correlation) with neurobiological responses (which have apparently not been “proven” to correlate with success of a film).

The Mind Science Method has been lab tested (by whom) and is proven to correlate (but not measure?) with the actual psychophysiological responses of a subject to the screenplay. Testing measured neurobiological activity with a variety of electrodermal equipment including galvanic skin monitor, electromyrograms, a zygomaticaus, a corrogator, an EEG and EKG MP150WSW with Tel100C remote monitoring module data acquisition system (does this just mean lie detector?).

Over the course of years of testing and development, the Mind Science Method has been used to objectively (lol) rate more than 30 scripts for films with known gross box office receipts (and how did they do?), verifying the validity of our method (but not well enough for us to share the validity measures) and giving us a statistical basis (citations???) for predicting the success of a script with known Mind Science Method scores.

My response to the woman who e-mailed me was simple:

I am a blogger who writes about the entertainment world and skepticism. A producer who is a friend of mine alerted me to your website and I wrote about it, as I imagine you got from the original post, because the “mind science” as explained on your website seems to be pseudo-science and you provide no detailed explanation or scientific corroboration of your methods.

I am happy to write further about the science behind your service if you are willing to provide any peer-reviewed, scientific studies. Or any further information about what exactly the service you provide is, how it works, why it costs that much, any evidence that the responses you measure are accurate measures of emotions, any evidence that emotional responses are related to film success, or any projects that have been successful through your help.

Blog Against Theocracy: How religion controls America

I was fortunate enough, in my myriad wanderings through this world wide web, to come across something that’s going on this Easter weekend, which is Blog Against Theocracy.

So, I’m writing an entry for it, because I’m anti-theocracy, which doesn’t necessarily mean anti-religious, but I am also anti-religious.  I am not, however, against believing in God, or being spiritual, but I have a real problem with the political power structure that envelopes most organized religions.

I feel that religions take advantage of people who are at their most vulnerable, people who are scared, lonely, facing death, grieving, or simply at a loss as to the meaning of life.  These are serious, debilitating issues that everyone faces and religion offers an easy fix for them.  “Don’t fear being alone, Jesus loves you; don’t fear death, for you will go to heaven, and so will the loved ones you’ve lost.  Also, could you please donate a tenth of your net worth so that we can proselytize to help other weak and pathetic people in need and use that money to take advantage of politicians and control the government protect your interests.”

It’s incredibly difficult to live in this country without religious support.  Nothing in the country offers anything like the instant support, acceptance, friendship and network that religion does.  Most fraternities and sororities, the boy scouts, 12 step programs, many summer camps, many schools, and the pledge of allegiance (since 1954) all demand your belief in a higher power.  I live alone in Los Angeles, I don’t have a lot of friends, I don’t have a support network.  I am incredibly vulnerable to the appeal of joining a church or synagogue.  I mean, I’m in the entertainment industry, and I’m not Jewish or a Scientologist, how am I ever going to make it?

Religions are a power structure.  They are cults, they offer you the chance to fit in with a group, to be supported by the group, so long as you toe the line.  You get pressured into supporting irrational ideas, financially and politically.  You get put on the ground to do things that no sane person would do on their own.  They are incredibly political groups that are about self-promotion, self-protection, and getting away with as much as they can.

Who, in their right mind, would go to someone’s funeral to say that that person deserved it, were they not egged on by a group of supporters?  Who would refuse their child medical care were they not part of a group that demanded it?  Who would feel obligated to murder people who had harmed no one if it weren’t for religion?  Who would attack or murder a woman seeking an abortion without even asking her why she was doing it?  Who would refuse two people legal protection of the state, if it weren’t for their small-minded, 2000 year old book?  We’re not talking about isolated incidents, we’re talking about things that happen every day, throughout the country, and all over the world.

The founders were incredibly insightful, separating Church from State, but the problem is that churches are allowed to be states of their own.  They are impenetrable, untaxable, untouchable by the state.  Do I think that churches should be run by the state, no, but I also don’t think they should be above and outside the law.  I don’t think they should be allowed to be engaged in politics and spend millions and millions of dollars to get religious legislation passed.  I don’t think they should be allowed to hide their criminals and pedophiles.  I don’t think God’s forgiveness should remove someone from legal justice.

And so I wait for the US, founded on ideals it never quite lives up to but always strives to achieve, I wait for it to look at its Constitution and realize it needs to do something to protect itself and its citizens from the constant onslaught of religious nonsense.  I wait for it to say that I am deserving of equal protection under the law, that I deserve to be protected from mob rule, that other people’s imaginary friends and ancients books of myths are not more important than science and rationality and basic humanity.

John Travolta: Taking advantage of a Tragedy, Worse than Pat Robertson?

http://gawker.com/5451086/

Scientology creep, John Travolta, whose involvement in the religion/cult may or may not be responsible for the death of his child, is sending “volunteer ministers” from the Church/Cult of Scientology to Haiti.

I could say a lot more but the Gawker pretty much has it covered.

My question is, is it worse to appeal to your fundamentalist base by saying that Haiti deserved it because they’ve sold their soul or to try to take advantage of the horror in an attempt to gain converts to your creepy religion?  Answers in essay form, please.